LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - It has been a year since the journey for the Thundering 13 to the Little League World series began. This year, things are different.
"It is hard to believe it has been a year," assistant coach Ryan Deaton said. "It seems like it was yesterday. That may have been the best team Lufkin has ever put together."
Deaton was an assistant coach on the Lufkin All-Stars last year. He moved up with the players that stayed around to help coach them on the Junior League level. It is the last level that these kids will play before they head off to high school. This year, only seven of the players returned to the All-Star competition. Six new faces are joining them.
"There are a lot of good players on this team that are 14 years old that you didn't hear about because they couldn't play with us last year," Deaton said.
Only the 12-year-old age group plays at Williamsport, Pa, the birthplace of Little League. Because of that the experience truly is once in a lifetime.
"Little League has always focused on the 12's," Deaton said. "You are not going to see us on TV. I think the championship is on TV and that is played in Michigan."
The players just want to play.
"It is a lot more laid back," Chip Buchanan said. "I'm having a lot of fun. It is cool to play with my friends and see what we are going to have in High School."
The players have played in the city league together since tee-ball so knowing how to work together is not hard.
"There should be a lot of competition between the guys to find out who is the best," Sam Flores said. "I am ready to get out there."
The team does not have a game until the sectional tournament on July 5. They were set to play a team from the combined leagues in Tyler, but that team forfeited leaving them as the district champions.
"It will be a little difficult to motivate each other, but when the time comes we are going to give it our best," Flores said.